For most businesses, especially those selling to other businesses (or B2B), there is no more efficient way to generate new business than through referrals from existing happy customers. "Pre-selling" has occurred, which means there is already built-in trust, which inevitably shortens the sales cycle. Plus, there is typically little, if any, hard cost in that new customer acquisition.
So why are most businesses so weak at referral generation? It usually boils down to some combination of: (1) Fear of appearing too "salesy," (2) Fear of seeming desperate for work, and/or (3) Lack of confidence that you deserve the referral.
If your confidence in how referable you are is a core inhibitor, you must get right with that first. No business executes at complete perfection in every encounter. So start by ensuring that your expectations are realistic. If they are, and you still lack confidence, you may have some service opportunities. The most straightforward method for course correcting begins with asking customers what you could do to more fully deliver on their expectations.
Once you believe referrals are earned, use these six strategies to make referral generation a natural part of your relationship-building process without feeling too "salesy" or desperate.
Have quarterly check-in conversations with customers. Ask what differentiates your company, what you could do more of, and what you should stop doing. Tell them how you're going to act on that feedback. Next, explain that you're looking to grow your business, citing five specific businesses which could benefit most from the named differentiator and why.
Make it easy for your customers to refer business to you by teaching them how to talk about your business -- your elevator pitch.
Treat vendors and suppliers as partners and actively work to refer business their way. It often generates referral reciprocation.
Set the expectation for referrals upfront by telling new customers you intend to exceed their service expectations, and in return, your business relies heavily on referrals.
Consider offering a referral incentive to customers with a time window on it. If the incentive is open ended, well-intended customers may file away the offer in the back of their minds for when an opportunity arises -- often forgotten. A deadline creates a sense of urgency.
Explain specifically how you would like to receive referrals. Vague requests put too much work on the other person and don't keep the ball in your court. You might say, "I will send you a template of an email that you can simply customize and send to the prospect with a CC to me. I'll take it from there."
When a customer does refer a prospect your way, be sure to follow up with an old-fashioned handwritten thank you note or a phone call.
Find more advice at www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).